For the Current Occupant — and I’m sure this is true for leaders of other nations, at least the noisier and nominally democratic ones — there is a daily, running calculation of how many of his subjects  constituents approve of his performance compared to those who disapprove, factoring in those who are too benumbed to venture an opinion. The difference in the three groups results in the Presidential Approval Index, which can be either positive (more folks are happy than are unhappy) or negative (you get the picture).

The current PAI is -17. Fairly dismal, but it’s been worse in past weeks, as low as -26 on August 3. This is a number I suspect those closest to Dear Leader take care not to bandy about. Not that it appears to have any effect on either policy or presidential decorum.

But that’s not the point. Today I am concerned with my own PAI, or Personal Approval Index. I have observed it fluctuating wildly over the past week.

How does my brain arrive at my PAI? Simply explained, it surveys the various voices in my skull as they conduct their ongoing commentary on my appearance/performance/social adeptness/ability to keep from spilling coffee on my white pants. It’s a possibly less scientific process than the one used by the Rasmussen Poll, since in my brain’s technique the results are likely to be skewed by whichever voice is loudest at the moment.

My PAI recalibrates not just daily, but moment to moment. Witness last Wednesday:

  • I make it to work early and cross three items off my To Do list before 8AM: PAI +12
  • After a conversation with my boss, I discover I have a chia seed lodged between my front teeth: PAI -43
  • In the afternoon, I give a reading of one of my short stories, which is generously received: PAI +52
  • Back at work, I discover I’ve been incorrectly entering data into an exquisitely persnickety program: PAI -63
  • After correcting 23 pages of mistakenly entered data, I am finally back to the morning’s starting point: PAI neutral

And so it goes. I notice that my inner voices tend to skew toward the negative, or at least the negative ones are much more shrill and loud. The positive voices, while welcome, have an annoying habit of mumbling indistinctly and allowing themselves to be interrupted.

The overall effect of the PAI thus tends to be demoralizing. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that the PAI has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any. I would be quite happy to disable it, if only I could figure out how. Unfortunately, it has taken on the characteristic of an automatic program, humming along quite without my direction or supervision. Or, come to think of it, my approval.

I am hopeful that continued meditation will do the trick. Eventually I’ll find the Off button and be rid of the PAI for good. I may end up with more coffee spots on my pants, but I look forward to that day.

In the meantime, I find it’s best to disregard the PAI as much as possible. After all, if doing so works for the Leader of the Free World, it might just work for me.

 Your comments, as always, are welcome and encouraged.


  1. I don’t think I have a PAI, but after reading this I want to go out and get one immediately.

    5:30am: Wake up with the cat sleeping curled up next to my ear: PAI 50

    The cat loves me enough to want to snuggle even though I didn’t wake up to let him under the covers. Or possibly he’s cold.

    6:05am: I showered, ironed, and even found a sock for each foot. They’re not the same colour, but you can only be so picky: PAI 32

    6:35am: I left the house 5 minutes late: PAI -15

    7:15am: Arrived at work on time without being hit by a truck: PAI 10

    7:35am: Printed important documents and made a cup of tea: PAI 12

    And that’s where we stand right now. Yep, this is going to be good. Though I suspect waking up with the cat will turn out to be the highlight of my day.

  2. Mine seems to be like one of those apps you put on your phone and then can’t get rid of. Perhaps it’s time for a new operating system 🙂

  3. Love it!!!
    After a bad barn day, I can leave with a pretty low PAI index… But by the end of the day it usually turns around. And I consider myself lucky just to get to do it all over again the next day… Some days, of course, worse than others….

  4. What you have there, Elinor, is an admirably high PRQ, or Personal Resilience Quotient. When I grow up I’m going to get one too 🙂

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